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Facial tech identifies child porn victim over 10 years later, feds say. Man arrested

A woman was identified as a child pornography victim in images taken a decade ago with the help of facial recognition technology and a tip from Australian police, according to court documents.

Now, a man accused of taking the photos at his New York home from 2011 through 2013 has been arrested, federal prosecutors have announced.

A criminal complaint charges Matthew A. Steele, a 53-year-old Elma resident, with production and distribution of child pornography, according to a March 13 news release from the U.S Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York.

Steele was a former classmate of the woman’s father, she told a detective after she was located in September 2023, according to court documents.

McClatchy News contacted a federal public defender appointed to represent Steele for comment on March 14 and didn’t receive an immediate response.

The woman is located

In January 2023, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Crimes Center was alerted to 47 images involving the sexual exploitation of a child following a referral from the Queensland Police Service in Australia, prosecutors said.

When Australian police discovered the photos, they “appeared to be newly produced” before federal investigators in the U.S. later learned the images weren’t new, an affidavit says.

In September, a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) criminal analyst examined the photos in an effort to identify the child, according to the affidavit.

The analyst noticed the girl had dermatological markings on her face and used facial recognition technology to search for her online, the affidavit says.

That’s when the investigator believed photos of a Montana resident on Facebook and Instagram matched the images of the child, according to the affidavit.

Then, Montana authorities located the woman and spoke with her during a recorded interview in September, the affidavit says.

The woman told detectives that she was the child in the photo and that she knew “who was behind the camera,” according to the affidavit.

She said it was Steele, who she said she used to consider an uncle while explaining Steele and her father used to be “really close” and attended school together, the affidavit says.

“This is something I’ve tried to suppress for years,” the woman told detectives.

She also told them that Steele lived in or near Buffalo, according to the affidavit. Elma, where Steele lives, is about a 15-mile drive east from Buffalo.

According to the criminal complaint, Steele produced sexually explicit material of the woman when she was a child from July 2011 through July 2012.

Additionally, some of the images were created in March 2013, prosecutors said.

These images contained metadata that helped HSI “determine the type and serial number of the camera used,” according to prosecutors.

When HSI agents executed a search warrant of Steele’s home, they found photos of the woman as a child in different rooms, prosecutors said.

“They also observed the layout and the décor of the residence, which matched some of the images from the Queensland Police Service,” according to prosecutors. “Agents also located the camera used to take the images.”

On March 13, Steele appeared in federal court for a detention hearing and was ordered to be detained by a judge, prosecutors said.

In ordering his detainment, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah J. McCarthy wrote that no conditions of releasing him “will reasonably assure the safety of any other person and the community.”

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